Research condemns charcoal toothpastes

Research condemns charcoal toothpastes

New research suggests charcoal-based dentifrices may increase the risk of abrasions, contribute to tooth decay and fail to whiten teeth. The BDA’s Prof Damien Walmsley said they offer ‘no silver bullets’ and come with real risks attached. He told those tempted to use them: "Don’t believe the hype. Anyone concerned about staining or discoloured teeth that can’t be shifted by a change in diet, or improvements to their oral hygiene, should see their dentist."

The review, published in the BDJ,[i] examined 50 charcoal toothpastes and found that just 8% of them actually contained fluoride. The review also found that even among the products that do contain the substance, their effectiveness might be rendered obsolete because charcoal can actually inactivate fluoride.

Among those tested, more than half claimed to have therapeutic benefits while a third claimed to strengthen or fortify teeth. Other claims identified in the review included detoxification (46%), antibacterial or antiseptic properties (44%) and antifungal benefits (12%). But the review authors say that none of these claims have been proven.

Nearly all of the toothpastes also claimed to whiten teeth, but the review states that charcoal-based pastes or powders contain an insufficient amount of free radical bleaching agent for them to have any whitening or stain-removing effect.

The review also identified a number of potential health risks with charcoal-based toothpastes due to the possible inclusion of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbon in charcoal, the group of chemicals that naturally occur in coal, crude oil and gasoline.

Dr Linda Greenwall, lead author of the study and member of the British Dental Bleaching Society, who conducted the research, urged consumers to check the ingredients of charcoal-based toothpastes before use to ensure they contain fluoride. Calcium and phosphate are also needed in order to strengthen enamel, she added.

“Not all charcoal toothpastes are the same and some could potentially be causing lasting damage to a person’s teeth,” she continued. “Toothpastes should contain fluoride to have additional health benefits for the teeth. The most worrying aspect about the marketing of charcoal pastes and powders appears to be a strong emphasis on the benefits which appeal to consumers, which have yet to be disproved. This ‘scientifically claimed until proved wrong’ approach is favoured over substantiated, evidence-based promotion.”

[i] Linda Greenwall, Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, Nairn Wilson: Charcoal-containing dentifrices, British Dental Journal Volume 226, pages697–700 (2019)


You need to be logged in to leave comments.

Please do not re-register if you have forgotten your details,
follow the links above to recover your password &/or username.
If you cannot access your email account, please contact us.